Wind is “Free”

August 29, 2011

We enjoy Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens. A beautifully manicured garden in the middle of a big city.

In their new visitor’s centre there is now an exhibit on Energy, Food, and the Environment. I could not help but notice from afar the poster about “Energy” which prominently displayed a windmill. Moving closer I saw the message which is apparently that “wind is best since it’s free!”.

By the same criteria all energy sources are free at the point it’s mined from the earth.

What’s so special about Wind being “free” compared to other sources of energy? I accept that as long as the sun shines we’re likely to have some amount of wind and hence “renewable” to the extent that the wind continues to blow. Further, I accept that other sources of energy may have limited quantities residing on earth, thus are not automatically “renewable”.

But what does “free” mean and why is this the feature of this poster? Are they trying to say that we can get something for nothing and it’s easy to do so?

IMG 0632


August 21, 2011

I was a longtime user of Microsoft Money. It provided a terrific structure and framework to provide structure and framework around personal money management. Microsoft discontinued support of the product. Despite that lack of support, the product continued to work but automation with financial services companies stopped functioning (or was planned to stop … I can’t remember). About that same time I moved from a Windows laptop to an Apple laptop. I started using Money on the Mac via VMWare, but was bothered by the inevitable that it would eventually stop working.

I looked around and could find nothing equal to Money. I eventually settled on MoneyDance and found other ways to do the things missing when compared to Money.

In time, I noticed that MoneyDance was producing summary expense reports that were wrong. The numbers involving sums of expenses in multiple currencies were seemingly ignoring the currency sign and instead simply adding the raw numbers. Oh dear. On further inspection, the exchange rates recorded for transactions were “weird” and unchangeable. Oh dear. I tried to get help from MoneyDance support but in the end I don’t know why they were unable to agree there was an issue nor why they could not, apparently, fix the problem.

Looked around again and noticed an article somewhere about Money tools for Mac. They mentioned iBank from IGG Software.

Impressive. Even more impressive was the herculean help they gave me in converting my “messed up” MoneyDance data file into iBank.


So much to comment on …

August 21, 2011

Christopher Booker’s article in today’s Telegraph is getting a lot of chat in the blogs, so there is not more I can contribute here.

Booker’s point of view is how the BBC “steadfastly avoids the facts about the wind farm scam”. From all I can see that appears to be a true assessment of BBC’s coverage.

A key bit of data reported by Booker about an operational wind farm off the coast of Cumbria has the following attributes:

: Capital Cost £500,000,000
: Capacity 45 MegaWatts (based on a non-conservative guess of 30% load factor)
: Cost/MegaWatt: £11,000,000

Compare this to the cost of a newly opened gas-fired power station

: Capital Cost £400,000,000
: Capacity 882 MegaWatts
: Cost/MegaWatt: £500,000

£11,000,000/£500,000 = 22

The new wind far cost 22 (!) times that of an alternative energy source.

Would be interesting to see the 25 year economic model for both investments which would presumably include ongoing fuel costs, maintenance, income, etc. Just saying the capital cost is 22x is a great start and the fact that it’s not being discussed is a tragedy. But we are apparently not using our brains very well any more.

Update 21 Aug 11:38:

Via Bishop Hill we learn that Richard North thinks that Bookers number are low–should be 40 times the cost, not 22.

“Actually, Booker is wrong on this, as his calculations are based on gas and wind equipment lasting the same time – whereas a gas plant will last at least twice as long as a wind farm. On that basis, offshore wind costs a staggering forty times more than gas to build.”


August 20, 2011

Over the last few years, I’ve been migrating my world of desktop computing tools from a Windows world to a Mac world. The drive for this has been twofold: 1. Because I can, and 2. I bought a Mac on a whim when my Windows laptop crashed. Previously I was a Microsoft OneNote user, but in the Mac world this software was unavailable and I found it impractical to use it in VMWare.

I’ve recently been reminded of MacJournal software. I’ve downloaded it and am now testing it. Interesting possiblities and clearly going to be useful.

Update 21 Aug

I’ve decided not to continue with this product. While initially attractive, I realized I have same and more capability for “journals” and miscellaneous note-taking using other existing tools, especially DEVONThink. I’m taking a quick test look at MarsEdit to provide off-line blog capablity.

Junk Energy in its Purest Form

August 19, 2011

Interesting article at by “Billothewisp” taking an “engineering” approach to compute the benefits of wind power with respect to regurn on investment, the value of the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC), etc. His conclusion:

I hope that explains why these things are being built in wholly inappropriate areas. As long as the Capacity Factor is a pathetic 15% or more then the generators are onto a nice little earner, irrespective of the damage they do to local communities in building their white elephants.

This is not going to get any better. Nothing is going to happen next year or even in ten years which will alter the laws of physics so these white elephants can actually contribute without being propped up by massive subsidies from the consumer.

We are stuck with this for 25 years.

But if our little carpet bagger friends have turbines running at last years average of 22% CF then they are raking it in. But only because of the ROC. Without the ROC the things are wholly unviable.

If the ROC was withdrawn tomorrow, I would bet that nigh on every wind turbine in the land would be scrapped within 6 months.

Junk Energy in its “purest” form.

Very Impressive

August 15, 2011

At university and in the first few years of my career (1970’s) I spent a lot of time working to simulate with mathematics and computers the motion of water waves and the resulting forces when those waves hit shallow water, ships in that shallow water, etc. Frankly, we never figured it out as it was all second order non-linear differential equations and we gave up. We never got to the point of visualizing those motions.

Well, it’s now 2011 and time has moved on. Evan Wallace has released an immensely impressive demonstration of web technology to display water waves in small container. He also has a sphere you can drag and drop around the small container of water. And the watch the waves. Impressive.